Lowell police officer arrested on child rape charge

Lowell police Officer James Paul Blair
Lowell police Officer James Paul Blair Charlotte

A Lowell police officer was arrested on a child rape charge on Thursday, and more charges are expected, the State Bureau of Investigation said.

Officer James Paul Blair, 51, of Gastonia, was charged with statutory rape of a child by an adult and was jailed on $1 million bail, jail records show. He was booked into the jail at about 2:30 p.m.

“We are encouraging the public to contact the SBI if they have relevant information or believe they may have had inappropriate contact with Blair,” said Audria Bridges, special agent in charge of the SBI’s Charlotte area office.

The SBI can be reached at 704-454-5264.

On Wednesday, Bridges said the SBI was investigating whether a Lowell officer had an “inappropriate relationship” with a minor.

Gaston County Police Chief Joseph Ramey requested the SBI investigation recently, Bridges said in a statement, “and a concurring request from (Gaston County) District Attorney Locke Bell was given.”

Blair was on leave because of a back injury, Observer news partner WBTV reported. He was suspended without pay on Thursday pending the outcome of the rape case.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak